Two local inventors take the leap from making household innovations, to selling them
Mark Tipperreiter and Brian Wornath have never met, but if they did they could easily be called the Tigard-area MacGyvers.
The two entrepreneurs launched separate businesses around recent inventions the men created after finding solutions to two very different problems.
'I'm a problem solver by nature,' said Tipperreiter, a Metzger resident. 'I am always looking for the 'what if.' What if there was solution for this or a way to fix that?'
Tipperreiter recently launched BlanketBooster, a company devoted to his most recent invention, designed to help people get to sleep.
The BlanketBooster keeps blankets off your feet and provides relief to people with medical issues, or don't like the pressure bedding puts on feet.
Tipperreiter got the idea when he was an engineer at Intel.
'It was a very demanding work environment. I was go, go, go all the time and every day I came home exhausted at end of the day,' Tipperreiter said. 'And I knew that in order to prepare for tomorrow I would need a good night sleep.'
But a good night sleep didn't come.
'The covers of the bed were weighing down on my feet. It was a nuisance,' he said. 'It was just uncomfortable enough that it became a focus, like a rock in your shoe.'
The solution, a thin metal rod that stands above the bed like a tent-pole, kept the blankets off his feet.
It's a deceptively simple solution, Tipperreiter admits, and while there have been similar products in the commercial world for hospitals, there was nothing that functioned for home.
What makes BlanketBooster different, Tipperreiter said, is that it's collapsible, and easily portable for people who travel frequently.
'My wife likes things to look Pottery Barn perfect,' Tipperreiter said. 'We designed it in a way that it can fold down.'
Tipperreiter said he didn't plan on his invention being for anybody but himself.
'I was selfish,' he said. 'I was trying to solve a problem for myself.'
But after a friend with gout saw what he had invented, the possibility of selling them began to take shape.
'He said 'Where did you buy that and how much does it cost?' He gets painful flare-ups at night if he has any contact on his feet. I told him I made it myself and he said 'How much to make me one?'
Like having a collapsed lung
A similar thing happened to Wornath after his invention, the Deckdoor, began to catch on with family and friends.
Wornath, a Tigard resident and an instructor at Chemeketa Community College, said he, too, hadn't planned on starting a business with his invention, until he realized how prevalent the problem was.
Wornath was under his house fixing a leak when he noticed that many of his vents were inaccessible because his home's back deck was in the way, preventing Wornath from opening them during the summer time and closing them in the winter.
When Wornath and his family eventually moved to another house in Tigard years later, he noticed a similar problem.
'There were four vents that were affected. You're talking about anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of the vents in the whole house that are impaired and you don't have enough ventilation,' Wornath said. 'Imagine having a collapsed lung and you were only breathing out of one lung. You'd notice the difference.'
Aside from a simple airflow problem, Wornath said, blocking vents with decks or porches is likely a violation of state code as well.
'I talked to some deck builders and one guy said they just cover the vents and said they don't worry about it,' Wornath said. 'They just close them.'
Wornath's solution, the Deckdoor, attaches to the vents with a simple rope and pulley system so the vents can be opened without having to crawl under the deck to reach the vents to open or close them.
Turn a small knob on a control box attached to the deck and the inaccessible vents open. A few turns to the left and the vents are closed for winter.
'Even if you could climb under your deck to open the vents, I don't know that they would want to, with all the spider webs and mud,' he said.
Wornath said that the problem of inaccessible vents is more common than people realize.
'For a homeowner who wants to protect their largest investment, that is one market for it,' Wornath said. 'And deck builders who are doing retrofitting, this could be something that they sell and go along with it.'
'Don't let the economy dictate what you do in life'
The Deckdoor is still in its early stages, Wornath said, with plenty of research and development to do.
Tipperreiter, on the other hand, has thrown caution to the wind, leaving Intel to run BlanketBooster full time.
Today, BlanketBooster is sold online and at Western Pet Supply in Garden Home in a niche market that Tipperreiter did not expect: pet owners.
'It makes a little space for your dog to sleep, and that was a market that really surprised me. We hadn't planned for that.'
Tipperreiter said even if his business fails, he has other ideas in the works for other inventions.
'The draw to do this was so seductive,' he said. 'I'm not a person to live with regrets and I said I wanted to live a life where I got to do what I wanted to do and if it failed then it failed but if it succeeded I would never be able to look back and say I wish I had tried. I'm not that kind of person.'
And with a patent for his booster recently approved, Tipperreiter sees it as a sign that any business can thrive, no matter the economy.
'I want to be that successful business that can grow in a time of recession and show people that if you have an idea, you can do it. Don't let the economy dictate what you do in life.'
But he admitted that it takes more than just a good idea to make a business successful.
'You have to be able to get that idea to people who can appreciate it,' he said.